Moxie Magazine – February 1990

Common Sense Self-Defense

moxieBy Carolyn Reuben

One memorable election day, an Oklahoma couple argued over politics, and the husband hit his wife in the face in fury, breaking her nose. Later, while he slept, she straddled him and began pounding his shoulders with her iron skillet. Awakening from a sound sleep, he roared, “What are you doing?!”

She answered, “I want you to know l will not be hit. You have to go to sleep every night. Next time it will be your beautiful face, and you’ll have to explain it at work.” Surprised, he replied in awe, “Who would think, a nice Southern girl like you!” “It took a lot of guts,” she says, remembering, “but Southern girls are used to being treated well. He looked at me with respect after that, and he never hit me again.”

One night, a 55-year-old film editor was walking by a Hollywood parking lot and discovered a man beating a woman while two parking attendants, both taller and heavier than the attacker, watched. It wasn’t an unusual sight for the area, and she had ignored such attacks in the past. But this time she told the man to stop or she would call the police. Before she could act, he lunged at her, grabbing her wrist. Although she was only ‘5’5” and 150 pounds, she no longer considered her size a disadvantage. In a self-defense class called Model Mugging (see “Where to Get Help”), she’d downed far larger men than this one. As trained, she dropped onto the ground, kicking her assailant in the knee, twisting her wrist out of his grasp, and grabbing him. A kick to the groin and, as he fell forward, a second jab of her foot to his face were enough to knock him out. She helped the injured woman into a car, told the attendants to call the police and paramedics, and went home.

bedroomAnother evening, a 65-year-old woman walked into the living room of her Phoenix, Arizona, condominium, expecting to see her husband, 72, watching television. Two men with stockings covering their faces were lifting him out of his chair, pointing a gun at his neck. They jerked her farther into the room, smashed her husband in the face when he protested, and demanded cash and jewelry. She led one man into the bedroom and dumped her purse onto the bed. The man took her money, flung her on the bed, and left the room. She grabbed the couple’s loaded .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol from the top dresser drawer. Before the gunman in the living room could pick up his weapon from the bar in front of him, she shot him through the chest. Intruder number two ran out the patio door and was picked up within an hour of the woman’s call to the police.

Violence is as old as civilization and, unfortunately, as American as apple pie. A woman is raped in the United States every three minutes. One is battered every six minutes. One in three girls under age 18 will be sexually molested. Violence against women is deeply ingrained in the American social fabric, running the gamut from the ultimate crime of murder to insidious putdowns perpetuated by the advertising and entertainment industries. Recently, for example, I rented what I thought would be an innocuous video called “The Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy” for my three-year-old daughter. To my horror, what launched the couple’s adventures was the brutal kid- napping of a new French doll, a classic blond bimbo, by a sex-crazed pirate whose eyes bulged, tongue dangled, and stomach heaved up and down like a humping puppy at the sight of her.

It isn’t as though women haven’t complained, resisted, and defended themselves with their wiles and weapons throughout recorded history. However, it has only been in the last two decades that women-and men-have successfully moved from individual action to organizing on local, state, and national levels to eliminate anti-female violence.

The focus on self-defense began in earnest in the late ’60s, when sexist abuse by men in the anti-Vietnam war movement convinced female war protesters that women, whatever their political persuasion, were an oppressed class. Women’s consciousness raising groups were born, along with a sense of a Sisterhood-of-victims that cut across racial, economic, and political boundaries. The National Organization for Women (NOW), Ms. Magazine’s editorial staff, and subgroups within the Screen Actors’ Guild began looking at media images of women. They spoke out against sexism, violence, and the link between the two.

kick from groundTalk about oppression turned to action in the 1970’s. Coalitions Against Domestic Violence began offering women information and referrals to the shelters for battered women that were springing up across America. Rape hotlines were organized, and women’s self-defense classes proliferated. The Neighborhood Watch program, complete with nightly “block walks,” began in 1971 in a crime ridden West Philadelphia neighborhood, then spread across the nation. It took hold where people realized that, as Michael Castleman so aptly put it in Crime Free (Simon & Schuster, 1984), “the criminal justice system cannot guarantee our well-being any more than physicians can guarantee our health.” Community-wide action is definitely worth the effort. However, you may be wondering what you can do, immediately, to protect yourself. Lots. The first step is to recognize against whom you are defending yourself.

The Assailant

In Crime Free, Castleman describes the average criminal; an impulsive, intoxicated opportunist younger than 25 who will “grab what is in easy reach and quickly lose interest if thwarted or distracted,” who tends to operate close to his own home, and usually within his own race and ethnic group. If he’s in his teens, he’ll use a weapon to feel powerful, like “somebody,” but in his twenties he’ll use a weapon only to get a job done. By his thirties, he`s ready to settle down and look for a more stable source of income. (As one ex-con said about his life of crime, “The retirement plan was terrible.”)

The Victim

kickingYou may be surprised to learn that males from 12 to 24 are the most frequent victims of crime, except in cases of rape. Rape victims are most often women under 30, but because rape is a crime of violence and anger, not sex, victims can be any age. Older people of both sexes are victimized less often than perceived, probably because they take more precautions than the young.

Where mugging and rape are concerned, regardless of age or sex there is definitely an “assaultable look” that attracts disaster. Videotapes of random pedestrians were shown to convicted muggers in New Jersey’s Rahway State Penitentiary by social psychologist Betty Grayson. All agreed that it wasn’t age that made one woman more assaultable than another but the way she moved down the street. Victims took unusually long or short strides and looked disjointed and unsteady. They moved the arm and leg of one side together instead of swinging opposite limbs at the same time, and they walked awkwardly rather than smoothly. They appeared preoccupied, not paying attention to their surroundings. In other words, by projecting “victim vibes,” an air of vulnerability, you may be inviting attack. But by changing the way you present yourself, you can substantially reduce your risk.

The Best Defense

To illustrate the idea that the best defense is a good offense, Castleman draws a fitting analogy: He compares methods of combating disease with America’s approaches to crime. Take malaria. Primary prevention is the draining of swamps, secondary prevention is the strengthening of the host’s immune system, and tertiary prevention is the use of strong medicines to fight the disease once it’s established. In the case of crime, primary prevention is the liberal’s agenda of eliminating poverty, child abuse, and illiteracy; increasing self-esteem; and providing meaningful jobs. Worthy goals, but they don’t help you (the potential crime victim) today. Tertiary prevention is the conservative’s approach of building more prisons, handing out stiffer sentences, and hiring more police.

But as Joe Mele, instructor at the University of Louisville’s National Crime Prevention Institute, points out, law enforcement’s track record is “horrible” only 14 percent of crimes ultimately result in a conviction. “It’s far more cost-effective to prevent crime,” he says. That’s what Castleman calls secondary prevention. And it means changing your physical environment, inner attitude, and outer behavior to make yourself less attractive and vulnerable to criminals. Following are practical and effective self-defense strategies you can use today.

To Stop Burglars

Burglars don’t want to tangle with the people they rob. They want to get into and out of a house within five minutes without confrontation. Common sense self-defense measures include growing thorny plants like roses or cacti beneath windows, putting planter boxes on windowsills, trimming hedges that block visibility of your front door from the street, installing outdoor lighting, and locking windows and doors. Don’t hide keys under doormats, keep valuables out of view from the street, and leave lights and stereos on when you’re gone to make your home appear occupied.

kick to the chest on backBecause most burglaries occur during the day when people are at work, a large dog may be a reasonable investment (though it isn’t fair to a dog to leave it home all day alone; get two). Display Beware of Dogs signs. Hide your valuables creatively. For example, place money in books or in envelopes taped behind pictures on the wall, jewelry in old cans on upper kitchen shelves, fine silver under the bathroom sink. Most burglars won’t take the time to look beyond the obvious places.

Since approximately 80 percent of burglars enter through doors, be sure yours is solid-core, hinged inside with solid jambs, reinforced with steel strips in high-risk neighborhoods, and locked with double-cylinder deadbolts. Place a broom handle in the floor track of glass sliding doors and attach vent locks to wood-sash windows to keep them inaccessible when closed or open. You may want to install an alarm system that alerts police as well as your local alarm company when triggered by an intruder. Ask your local police departments’ crime-prevention unit for a security survey to help make your home burglarproof.

To Avoid Mugging

When outdoors, stay alert, keeping your head up, hands swinging, body moving in balance. Watch the street attentively. Be especially wary around hospitals, malls, and hotels, where muggers prey on people who are distracted by thoughts of illness, shopping, or vacation plans. Stay fit through regular exercise and a nutritious diet. When possible, do errands with a friend.

Castleman suggests these additional safety measures: Hold onto the base of your purse’s shoulder strap; at night walk in the street, where lighting is better and you’re away from doorways and alleys; when driving through high-crime areas, keep car windows open only a crack and doors locked, ignore strangers’ attempts to attract your attention; look out for people hanging around your apartment door or in or near your car, and don’t enter until you’re alone. If you are accosted, scream piercingly to startle the mugger and attract help.

You might consider taking a self-defense course. In recent years, more and more women have been learning Oriental martial arts, including Japanese Karate and Aikido, Korean Tae Kwon Do, and Chinese Kung Fu. Sue Frederick, 38, of Boulder, Colorado, says one of the hardest aspects of practicing karate was working through her “tendency to cry instead of to keep fighting.” Getting into a fighting spirit may particularly benefit women who rarely yell, never scream, and haven’t been taught how to use their bodies as weapons.

eye strike to faceUnfortunately, muggers and rapists do not attack by the rules a martial artist follows. In 1971, Stanford karate student Matthew Thomas was horrified to learn of the rape of a classmate. She was a state karate award winner, and her instructor said she’d let the school down by being a victim. When another friend of Thomas’ was raped, he began studying how women are attacked. He read police reports, interviewed victims of attack and rapists in prison, and ultimately created a unique course called Model Mugging. Thomas began with the fundamental fact that when attacked, most women are immediately thrown to the ground and must fight on their backs. Model Mugging teaches women to use this position to their advantage, as their hips and legs are the strongest parts of their bodies..

As one onlooker said at a Model Mugging graduation, “I had studied Kung Fu, but what we did was all simulations.” In Model Mugging classes, a student can use her full force against specially protected “attackers.” Theresa Saldana, the television actress who was stabbed 26 times by a deranged fan, is an enthusiastic alum. Of 6,000 graduates, there have been 36 known cases in which graduates used their training to disable an attacker, over 100 “noncombat defenses,” and only two cases when women chose to submit – because their attackers had knives.

Psychiatrists and rape crisis center workers know that women who have been traumatized by attack or molestation are helped when they are able to recreate the experience with a totally different, empowering ending. William Geiger, M.D., of San Luis Obispo, California, claims that “Model Mugging has shortened therapy time for some of my patients by at least one or two years and helped them accomplish other things that psychotherapy could never do.”

To Prevent Rape

Rapists are lonely, angry men who feel ignored by women even though many of them are involved in sexual relationships at the time of their crimes. They hunger for power and revenge, not sex. Bizarre as it sounds, Castleman tells of women who have avoided rape by offering to fix the rapist a drink and then running out the back door, or saying they’re being treated for a venereal disease and offering to make a date for another time. “One woman,” he reported, “arranged a subsequent rendezvous with a rapist, and when he arrived she was there with the police.”

kicking off handsIf you have never been raped and have the mistaken idea that a woman can’t be forced to do something against her will, you need to know that all it takes is the threat of death or serious injury to force people- men and women-to act in other- wise unimaginable ways. Research indicates that once a rape is in progress, active resistance is the best policy. In one study, 81 percent of women who ran away or even attempted to do so were able to avoid being raped. In another, 72 percent of women who screamed and cried for help escaped. The next most effective strategy was physical resistance, resulting in avoidance of rape for 68 percent of the women surveyed. Fourth runner-up was reasoning and flattery or other forms of verbal defense. What worked least was pleading.

As with mugging, rape prevention begins with following your intuition and paying attention to your environment. Don’t leave work at night alone; don’t park next to vans with sliding doors; keep your house and car windows and doors locked; install a peephole in your front door; ask service representatives for their office phone numbers and call to find out what their purpose in being in your home is before unlocking your door; look at a service rep’s identification through the peep- hole, and if he flashes one by quickly, don’t let him in; if a “salesman” calls on the phone when you’re alone, say, “I can’t talk to you now; my husband is expected home momentarily.” Both the National Crime Prevention Institute in St. Louis and Women Strike Back, an assault-prevention program in Breckenridge, Colorado, encourage women to use their initials, not their first names, on their mailboxes and in the phone book. They also suggest going one step further and creating a mate’s name, such as Mr. and Mrs. R. Jones, or Liz and Hunk O’Callahan. Keep gas in the trunk of your car (use a proper gas can), and if your car breaks down, stay inside and ask someone who stops to fetch the police.

Acquaintance rape is the least reported felony of all, even though a woman is four times as likely to be raped by someone she knows than by a stranger. And it isn’t always a date. An acquaintance is defined as anyone familiar to the woman. For example, one widow was knocked unconscious by a security-alarm repairman and kept captive in a van for two days while he beat and raped her. Because she recognized him, she had let him in and turned her back on him.

struggling to kickEyeing a repairman suspiciously is one thing, but dates are another, aren’t they? What about romance? What about an evening built on the fantasy that maybe this time, with this one, you’ll fall madly in love? Consider: What if you’ve allowed your date to caress your breasts but don’t want to go farther, and he twists your arm, holds you down, and pursues intercourse in spite of your protests? Do you report being raped? What if a former sexual partner takes you out for old times’ sake and insists on a goodbye nightcap with you? ls that rape?

According to Py Bateman, director of Alternatives to Fear, a Seattle, Washington based rape education group, women have trouble recognizing when they are being raped because sexually coercive behavior is so common. Likewise, she says, “The same kind of acceptance that makes it difficult for victims to identify their experience as rape makes it possible for men to fail to recognize or deny their behavior as inappropriate.” When this happens, too many women are concerned about embarrassment or the rapist’s well-being rather than their own defense. Imagine what you’d do if this man were attacking your daughter and use the same anger and force to protect yourself.

Domestic Violence

Wife (or girlfriend) battering is an exceedingly common crime in the United States. It was an exceedingly well-hidden crime, as well, until Del Martin published Battered Wives (Pocket Books, 1977) and opened the closet door. Martin estimated that between one-quarter and one-half of all married couples experience violence at some time during their relationship; it may take the form of verbal, sexual, or physical abuse. According to Castleman, a woman’s risk of being beaten by her husband or lover is 250 percent greater than her risk of being assaulted on the street.

Unfortunately, regardless of the man’s promises and intentions, battering usually gets worse over time. The Los Angeles Times computed that every six hours, somewhere in America domestic violence escalates to the point of murder. It can occur in any neighborhood, ethnic group, or economic class. In fact, according to Frances Elkins of the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic Violence, some of the most commonly victimized women are the wives of ministers, lawyers, and policemen. (No one, she says, will believe ministers’ wives; lawyers’ wives are afraid of facing their husbands in court; and police officers hesitate to interfere with a fellow officer.) Traditionally, both police and courts have tended to ignore domes- tic violence. The old phrase “rule of thumb” is based on English common law, which allowed a man to beat his wife if the weapon used was no thicker than his thumb.

kick positionA national trend toward an “arrest preferred” or “presumptory arrest” policy, meaning that the presumed action is to arrest the offender unless there is a clear reason not to, is helping. In 1984, only 10 percent of 146 police departments surveyed had an arrest preferred policy. Two years later, the figure was up to 46 percent. Some cities, such as Minneapolis, have a “probable cause” law that allows an officer to arrest the batterer even if the battered woman doesn’t want to press charges. In other cities-Seattle is one, a mandatory arrest law eliminates the officer’s choice in the matter.

According to Richard Berk, Ph.D., professor of sociology and statistics at UCLA and co-author of a study on the benefit of arresting batterers, police in general don’t like being forced to do so. Some, he says, undermine the policy by arresting both the assailant and the victim! Castleman points out that police resistance to intervention is based on more than sexism. “Intervention in domestic disputes,” he writes, “accounts for about 25 percent of all police injuries.”

Yet Berk’s study, conducted in Minneapolis and carried out for the U.S. Justice Department during 1981 and 1982, showed that arrest can be a deterrent. Even if the man never spends time in jail, his arrest reduces by half the likelihood that he will repeat the violence within six months. There may be a caveat, however: “That study is being replicated in six different cities, and over the next year findings will be released that may show a more complicated picture of when arrest is useful and when it is not,” cautions report co-author Lawrence W Sherman, Ph.D., professor of criminology at the University of Maryland and president of the Crime Control Institute in Washington, D.C.

Nearly one-third of all women murdered in the U.S. are killed by husbands or boyfriends. Battered women are encouraged to flee violent homes, but statistics show that after these women leave, there is an increase in the numbers killed by their partners. The following story of a woman killed by her husband after she left him represents a pattern that repeats itself daily, all across America:

In August 1989, a frantic woman in East Los Angeles dialed 911 during her 27th birthday party to report that her estranged husband was on his way to her home to kill her. Even though she told the dispatcher she had a restraining order forbidding him from coming within 100 yards of her residence, the dispatcher refused to send police to protect her. “What can we do?” they asked her. “We can’t have a unit sit there and wait and see if he comes over.”

“Oh, my God,” responded Maria Navarro, who was shot to death less than 50 minutes later by the man who, throughout their marriage, had beaten, abused, and threatened her and their children. At one point Maria had moved into a women’s shelter, but the couple reconciled when her husband began psychological counseling. However, as in most cases of wife-battering, once she returned the violence continued. When Maria filed for divorce and protective custody of her children 17 months before the shooting, she reported in a court declaration that her husband had forced her to drop charges against him, threatening to kill her. He finally did.

“Leave-taking is a very dangerous time,” says Barbara Hart, staff counsel for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and creator of a “lethality assessment” designed to help battered women and their advocates determine how likely the batterer is to commit murder (see “Where to Get Help”).

kick to kneeSome of the clues, according to Hart; Studies both in Canada and the U.S. reveal that one-third of the men who kill their partners then kill themselves. So if a man fantasizes death as a solution to his problems, his partner should consider him potentially homicidal. One man, for example, began to collect Elvis Presley memorabilia and told his wife that death secured Presley a place in history (Interestingly, zero percent of women kill themselves after killing their partners. “[Battered] women kill to preserve life, theirs, while men kill to end life,” explains Hart.) Listen to his threats. Are his plans articulated carefully, in detail? Is he desperate to keep you? The greater the loss you represent to him, the more central you are to his life, the more likely he is to kill you when you leave. Similarly if he believes he owns you and you have no right to life without him, leave with the utmost care. Does he have a history of drug use? Methamphetamine users are more dangerous than heroin addicts. Look for a change in his pattern. Is he now going to church when he never went before? Such change, more than any one behavior, bespeaks danger, says Hart.

Strategies for survival in an abusive domestic situation depend on the woman’s assessment of her particular situation. She may decide her partner is dangerous but an arrest will knock some sense into him. She may hide temporarily or have him committed to a mental hospital because he’ be sedated during this critical time period. She may move back to her parents’ house if she’s sure he won’t attack her there, or, as one woman did, keep her teenage children with her when she leaves the house.

The Choice Is Ours

A broad spectrum of choices from talking to fighting to shooting, from changing the way we walk to rearranging our home environment can help keep us physically safe. We’ll choose what fits our values and self-images most comfortably, recognizing that our self-defense strategies may change as we change.

We do not have to fear being helplessly victimized by muggers, burglars, rapists, or wife-beaters. Underlying whatever we choose to do is the empowering and liberating realization that with adequate preparation, we can protect ourselves.

Guns: A Girl’s Best friend?

“A lot of women are first-time handgun purchasers who at one time would have sworn that they would never buy a gun,” Jim Hogan says. Hogan manages Cole’s Guns in Santa Monica, California, where I am anxiously holding a revolver for the first time. Paxton Quigley is beside me, describing the various weapons in the glass case with a familiarity resulting from three years and over 200 hours of intensive study at every major American shooting school, including G. Gordon Liddy’s Academy of Corporate Security and Private Investigation in Miami, Florida. Quigley is only 5′-3” and 103 pounds, but she’s served Yoko Ono as a bodyguard, won awards for marksmanship, and leads personal-protection seminars for a large private security firm.

Gun defense is a small part of her seminar, but it is the major reason for our meeting, because Quigley is also the author of the controversial new book Armed and Female (Dutton, 1989), which describes the politics, ethics, legalities, and compelling benefits of gun ownership by women and includes a primer for people like me who don’t know caliber from Caliber. She’s pictured on the book cover in high heels and a black dress, ears protected by muffs, hands clasped in shooting position around a .357 Magnum. And she’s as ready as she looks. She is convinced that women need to defend themselves against the dangers of the urban jungle with the same ability to inflict harm as the predators who stalk them.

paxton quigly

Paxton Quigley

Quigley didn’t always feel this way. In 1968, she was a presidential-campaign staffer in the Washington, D.C., office of Senator Robert Kennedy. Not long after both he and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were shot, she joined others who decried easy access to handguns in creating the National Committee for Handgun Control, which helped guide Congress to pass the Gun Control Act of 1968. During the next 20 years Quigley phased out her social activism: She wrote a political science text- book and a cartoon book on pregnancy for non-English speakers, and served under Christie Hefner as director of community relations for Playboy Enterprises.

Then a close friend was raped at home 10 minutes before police answered her emergency call for help. The same week, Quigley read a newspaper account of a teacher in Los Angeles who heard her dog barking, investigated, and found an intruder facing her in the bathroom doorway with a screwdriver in his upraised hand. In her hand was a .38 Special revolver. The schoolteacher ignored her would-be assailant’s entreaties to let him go and kept him face-down on the floor while she called police. Ten minutes later police arrested the man, a convicted rapist out on parole. For Quigley, the world as she knew it shifted on its axis. “I asked myself,” she says, “who would I want to be, my girlfriend or the schoolteacher?

“It’s not a question of being paranoid,” Quigley asserts. “It’s a matter of accepting reality and then protecting yourself.” An increasing number of women agree. In Armed and Female, she cites a 1988 Gallup Poll commissioned by Smith & Wesson that indicates gun ownership by women increased 53 percent from 1985 to 1986. The National Research Opinion Center has found that 44 percent of adult females own or have access to firearms.

Why? Women in the ’80s are three times more likely to live alone than they were a decade ago due to increasing numbers of single women and female heads of households. Low incomes place many in poorer, crime-plagued neighborhoods. Because, according to Los Angeles Superior Court judge Dana Senit Henry, “One of three women will be physically attacked in her lifetime,” some women take gun training after an assault. An 86-year-old rape victim told her shooting instructor she never again wanted to feel that sense of powerlessness. One gun toter calls her weapon “the great equalizer” that makes up for her lack of strength. Another considers her gun “a necessary piece of household equipment” like her Cuisinart or tool kit.

This dependence on arms is enough to rattle the teeth of Jeffrey Muchnick, spokesperson for the Washington, D.C . based National Coalition to Ban Hand guns. “The gun doesn’t protect you,” he insists. “It’s more likely that it will be used against you or someone you love, rather than an intruder.” Muchnick raises the most frequently voiced arguments against gun ownership: the fear that children will harm or kill themselves or others or that the woman’s own gun will be used against her by an intruder or violent spouse. Statistics are certainly sobering. In 1988, according to FBI figures, of the 11,084 people murdered by firearms in the U.S., 40 percent were shot by an acquaintance, 15 percent by a relative, 33 percent by someone of unknown relationship, and only 12 percent by a stranger.

makeupYet, as with every volatile issue, there is another side to the story. Crime Free author Michael Castleman reminds us that most homicidal husbands do not suddenly and unexpectedly go for the gun in the heat of an argument. Murder usually occurs after months or years of escalating violence, during which police have been called five times or more. Ninety-five percent of domestic violence does not involve handguns. There is usually time for intervention or escape long before the relationship reaches homicidal intensity. And when it does, the batterer will use whatever is handiest. Without access to a gun, a man bent on homicide will use another weapon. Crime statistics do not clarify whether only one or both parties in the conflict carried weapons, but at least, contends Quigley, a sharpshooter wife is an equal adversary. Women, she believes, are vulnerable targets, and learning to shoot is no less essential than wearing a seat belt or installing deadbolts on the front door.

However, Quigley cautions, a woman should not buy a gun unless she is willing to learn how to use it, practice regularly, and fire into the chest of an intruder. Some women would rather not put themselves into the “siege” frame of mind, claiming what they focus on is what will come to pass. By exuding love and a commitment to nonviolence, they believe, they will be protected from violence. Guns are tied to machismo, the arrogance of male power, and the terror of death. For women, the life-givers, the caretakers-guns are emotionally overlaid with repulsive implications. And yet, lingering in my mind is the description of a predator sent to me by an editor: “A predator will attempt to kill any prey that presents itself at a disadvantage… [such as] lack of defense, or being easily overtaken….” But could I kill someone who was trying to kill me? It’s a question of multiple dimensions, for without a doubt l would kill someone who was trying to harm my daughter.

To arm oneself or not is, as Quigley admits, “a judgment call.” There is no one answer to this dilemma, only the answer that feels right for each woman at this moment in her life. The choice confronts the very essence of who we see ourselves to be. Perhaps benefit can be found in the very act of choice, as that in itself is empowering, no matter which defensive strategy is chosen. Even if a woman decides to do absolutely nothing, in the act of choosing she accepts greater control of her life. And that, ultimately, is what self-defense is all about.


Where to Get Help

Neighborhood Watch

Offers block-wide meetings, crime-prevention training, home security surveys, pledges to watch each other’s property, the exchange of names, addresses, and phone numbers, the placement of Neighborhood Watch signs, and a monthly newsletter detailing the locations of recent thefts. In an early study of one crime plagued section of Detroit, rape in the Neighborhood Watch areas decreased by 60 percent, purse-snatching by 61 percent, and home burglary by 62 percent. Contact your local police department to find out how to join.

Model Mugging

In these classes, women learn to knock out an assailant in seconds. Specially trained and padded men provide students with the practical experience they need to achieve mastery of defense strategies. Check the Model Mugging Website for current class schedule and locations: Phone (800) 590-4687.

Domestic Violence Resources

Lethality Assessment, published in Safety for Women: Monitoring Batterers Program, $15 postpaid from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2505 N. Front St., Harrisburg, PA 17110. Getting Free: A Handbook for Women in Abusive Relationships, by Ginny NiCarthy (Seal Press, 1986). NiCarthy, a therapist and founder of the Abused Women’s Network in Seattle, offers a compassionate guide to sorting out your personal values; recognizing emotional abuse; obtaining legal, medical, and counseling assistance; changing your attitude about yourself; reaching out to new friends and lovers; and coping with welfare, children, and being single Abusive Relationship Hotline. A national hotline run by the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic Violence takes calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It refers women to nearby shelters and services anywhere in the country through a computerized data bank. Call (800) 333-SAFE.

Carolyn Reuben is a nationally syndicated health columnist.
All photographs were taken by Sheryl Noday at Model Mugging graduation in Los Angeles, California.


Original article in Moxie Magazine, February 1990 – pages 52 to 60, and page 126; download file size is 6.54 MB

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